How To: Work with Jalapenos

Let me tell you all about how to work with jalapenos…terrifying, I know. I actually have a picture of a pair of rubber gloves, a knife, and a couple of jalapenos, but I decided that that was probably just too scary for my family-friendly blog, so I’ll try and keep this PG-rated.

how to cut a jalapeno

Jalapenos get a bad rap. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: not all jalapenos are created equal. Some will be so spicy that you may never eat again (okay, maybe not YOU, but most of you) and some taste a lot like a slightly-spicier green bell pepper. Here’s the secret: when you’re at the grocery store, pick up a jalapeno and sniff it. If it tickles your throat, it’s a spicy one and you can make your pepper-buying decision from there. You can also take note of the small white “stretch marks” on the outside of the pepper. The more stretch marks, the hotter the pepper. The other secret? The thing that makes jalapenos hot are the seeds and the membrane.

See all of these seeds? And the white stuff inside?

That’s the hot part. So if you’re not interested in a burning mouth, just run your fingers around that membrane in the middle and toss the seeds out with the dirty diapers and your dreams of eating like a true Mexican. To be extra careful, wear rubber gloves and use a small paring knife to make sure you get everything.
As far as handling the peppers go, be aware that the oils will stay on your hands unless you’re vigilant about making sure they don’t. You may think you washed your hands well until that night when you go take our your contacts. To avoid burning eyes, you can either wear rubber the gloves while handling your cut peppers or just wash your hands really, really well. Pretend you’re in Kindergarten and sing the ABCs. Twice. Once your peppers are all cleaned out, just slice or dice as the recipe calls for.
You could also try one of these jalapeno corers! I just heard about them! Has anyone ever used one?

Try fresh jalapenos in some of these dishes:
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  1. I just sliced a jalapeno and dropped it in hot oil. It sucked everyone’s breathe away. I’m laughing and crying, seeds popping all over the place. This should be some good chilli.. I’m so glad I didn’t pick a hotter pepper at this point.

  2. I always wear granny cheater reading goasses when I work with jalepenos. I learned my lesson from juice spitting in my eye.

  3. I learned that rinsing hands in bleach water or cleaner does a wonderful job of stopping any burning – almost 100% of the burn and almost 100% of the time. It seems that there is a chemical reaction that “neutralizes” the problem. I have used in for 3 years in cooking classes, so I know that this works. We have had no problems handling peppers with our bare hands!

  4. I always cook with jalapenos BUT I learned to keep lemon juice on hand for washing my hands. As soon as I finish handling the pepper I pour lemon juice on my hands and then wash with dish soap. PRESTO ! The HOT is gone !

  5. since i live in Mexico, i (very literally) cut jalapeños on a daily basis. i have a different method. instead of cutting down the middle and removing the seeds, i make four cuts around the edges, cutting away the dark flesh from the center, basically leaving a core of seeds in tact. that means i get less seeds mixed in there. just one other way to try it.

    also, olive oil is the perfect solution! though, i don’t put it on my hands before. i cut the chiles, then rub olive oil all over my hands, and then lather up with soap. the oil helps scrapes the jalapeños juices out of my skin.

  6. Thanks for the tips – sniff & stretch, I got it! I hate after cutting jalapeno’s it stays in my hands for 1-2 days, and really burns when you rub your eyes-lol-done it multiple times.

  7. As a 55 yr old cook, I find you are never to old to learn. Thank you for the Jalapenos Tips, how to pick a pepper tip helps me out!

  8. If you dip your fingers into olive oil before handling the jalapenos it will prevent the pepper oil from getting on your skin. Then you can just wash off the olive oil. Works like a charm.

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